“Love and scandal are the great sweeteners of tea.” Henry Fielding
I realize there is a thin line of misfortune that separates pariahs and personalities. This is particularly true for kids. Since minors have been proven to lack the neural transmitters and synapses to consistently exercise good judgment, it’s no wonder that teens find their way into print each week. Personally, I am very empathetic when this happens to a kid as I committed, contemplated, attempted, or chickened out of many of the same offenses that occasionally befall today’s teens.
In another place and time, I or one of my three brothers would have been weekly features in the recidivist roll call in the San Marino Tribune. The paper might have read: “A minor was cited for reckless driving when he lost control of a Ford Granada, striking a Mercedes with such force that it flipped on to the front lawn of a Virginia Road resident. A 14 year old minor was apprehended after attempting to jump off the roof of a Roanoke Road home on his bicycle. Two minors were arrested for detonating quarter sticks of dynamite in the scorer’s shack at Valentine Field. Three youths were arrested for trespassing on a vacant construction lot and for destruction of public property for attempting to operate an idle backhoe.“
It was impossible for my mother to conduct damage control when the phone trees of gossips were lit up with our latest transgressions. We were the topic du jour in a petty parliament of night owls eager for news of someone’s demise. I can only imagine how stressed out she would have been if the local paper tattooed the scarlet letter on our adolescent foreheads by blotting us – names or no names. She understood her responsibilities in raising her boys and recognized that it took a village to keep them out of trouble. She just did not think it should include the village newspaper.
My parents had no problem with shaming, grounding, weeding, spanking and other medieval forms of punishment. However, I am sure my mother would have drawn the line at having our miscues published like a Little League write up. While she had an instinct for delinquent DNA, she also believed that there were no “bad kids”, only “bad choices”. She felt any kid deserved a chance to recover from any mistake and that small town reputations were more difficult to recover than money invested in Florida swampland. Time, maturity, compassion and consequences tended to straighten a crooked back better than any public humiliation.
I often wonder if a creative kid wrote up the police blotter what they might list as a week’s worth of noteworthy felonies and misdemeanors:
A 45 year old Bonus Ridge resident has not been charged but is under investigation for his role in packaging subprime securities, exploiting inaccurate S&P agency credit ratings and financially benefiting from the sale of these instruments to institutional customers. Authorities believe the man was part of a unit that originated predatory sub-prime loans to uninformed consumers – – consumers who were almost certain to default on loans after teaser rates reset. “From where I sit, it may not have been illegal,” stated a high school senior, “but it was ethically and morally wrong.”
A local politician was recently the subject of a citizen’s arrest for portraying himself as a “blue dog moderate” while voting for legislation that will dangerously increase the US public debt to over $ 12T dollars in 2011. The arrest was conducted by five 16 year-old-teens attending a local town hall meeting where the representative refused to directly answer any questions about his voting record or the accumulating public debt. One teen was quoted as saying, “I feel like I am going to have to pay for a wild party that I never even got to go to.”
A 49 year old Cuckoo Street woman was arrested for reckless driving after she drove her BMW into a local pond. The driver was apparently on her cell phone – admonishing her teenaged daughter for texting and cell phone usage – when she hit a flock of Canadian geese and skidded into the west side of the pond.
58 adults were cited for “Serial Hypocrisy” in separate incidents last week. As part of “I Will Do As I Say Week”, parents were given “poor citizenship” citations – the proceeds of which will go to finance local education budgets. Police Officer Walker Talk commented, “It’s great to see kids calling adults out on their own inconsistent behavior.” 78% of the misdemeanor citations were attributable to disruptive behavior, lying, being under the influence of prescription drugs while lecturing teens, duplicity and researching old flames on the internet.
A 37 year old Narcissus Lane man was found guilty of threatening another adult during a Little League game. The incident which took place at during a local tee-ball game, involved a parent verbally abusing his son’s volunteer coach for failing to put his seven year old in to play shortstop. The coach was bewildered, “At one point, (the accused) told me to ‘put his kid at short or he would take home all the after game snacks. That’s when I called the cops. I mean, the whole team started to cry.“
Alas, it does seem that none of us are perfect. Some just seem to get caught. Ironically, failure and misfortune are stepping stones for some to find humility and wisdom. A kid who does not fail may carry a higher probability for later in life “crash and burn” incidents because they never learned how to stumble and pick themselves up. As we sadly often see, adult mistakes can be much more devastating than any committed by a hormone impaired teen trying to find their own path into adulthood.
I am all for consequences but let them be private and focused on humility and not humiliation. Many of these same clueless adolescents will end up shouldering our burdens – propping our pillows, paying our deficits, funding our social security and trying to keep our country on a path that will not ultimately result in our relegation to second class economic status. When deconstructed most adolescent transgressions are really sins of omission and not commission –failure to think, failure to understand consequences, failure to recognize that one’s own best thinking is highly flawed.
I’d prefer we did not mix the errors of adults and kids. I guess if we must continue to include nameless minor offenders in a long, predictable line of stupidity, let’s print their miscues under a separate dishonor roll entitled: “What Were You Thinking?” I vote we keep our kids out of the newspaper until we have something nice to say. Self esteem remains for many kids a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we spend enough time cultivating a positive image in every kid – even those who commit bonehead mistakes, it’s bound to make a difference.
Now that, my friends, would be news.